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How Reclaimed Plastic Trash is Making a Fashion Statement
This past April we wrote about 22 ways you could celebrate Earth Day and in that blog we quoted the fact that plastic is so resilient that even burying it deep within the earth doesn’t keep it from impacting the environment. If you let that fact sink in for a minute and thinking about your own plastic use then you may be wondering what other ways you can help reduce it in your own life.
But… is it even possible if it’s found in so many products? Even ones you can’t imagine! We were surprised to find from our plastic-free challenge blog post that there is plastic in some brands of tea bags, cigarette butts, even in chewing gum! Today we will add your favorite sports bra to that list (or any piece of clothing) made from synthetic fabrics.
Thankfully there are companies out there that are doing something about reclaiming plastic that is already in the environment including taking it out of the ocean and reusing it to make new products. Reclaimed plastic can be reused to make a wide variety of other useful items like…
- Shampoo, detergent, and household cleaning bottles
- Packing materials
- Trash bags
- Traffic cones
In fact, reclaimed plastic can be can also be used in the garment industry to make shoes and clothing. Outdoor clothing and gear brand Patagonia has been relying less and less on using virgin plastic to manufacture their polyester fabrics and incorporating reclaimed ocean plastics into fleece, hardshell jackets, and board shorts. They take landfill and ocean-clogging plastics like water bottles and crush them in tiny chips that are washed and then turned into soft, recycled yarn. This scientific magic essentially eliminates the need for petroleum and punches the plastic trash monster right into the gut!
However, even reclaimed plastic fabrics and all other synthetics will shed more plastic into the environment in the form of microfibers. These are tiny fibers of plastic that wash away from your favorite pair of leggings or yoga pants and go straight into the wastewater and eventually the ocean. Scientists have identified these fibers as being the largest percentage of ocean plastic pollution and they are coming directly out of textiles and clothing. These microfibers can infiltrate the sea life and have been found in the bellies of baby fish, zooplankton, shellfish, crabs, and other species. And, if you like to eat seafood then you are probably ingesting plastic in the form of fibers and small pieces called microplastics. And, even though they aren’t as visible, microfibers are as polluting to the ocean as other plastic waste and debris such as our garbage, fishing nets, bottles, and straws.
So, is the answer to only wear and manufacture clothing with natural fibers? We think there are situations where synthetics are actually better than natural fibers. For example, even though silk is biodegradable and easier on the environment, it isn’t an appropriate application for athletic wear or yoga pants. Neither silk or pure cotton or linen will keep you dry in a rain storm. Accepting that fact then, what can we do about all those fibers escaping our washing machines with each wash cycle? It could be as easy as tossing your sports bras into a fiber-catching wash bag like the Guppyfriend Microwaste wash bag. This innovative bag will capture the microfibers just like your lint trap does on the dryer. That’s just one product that is helping to capture plastic before it hits the ocean. Here are some other companies and products that are getting creative for the environment…
We love this game even more with this version made from 100% fishing nets. Each set of Jenga Ocean game blocks is made from over 25 square feet of recycled fishing nets helping to protect ocean sea life and fragile ecosystems
This Maine company is collecting lobster trap plastic rope and repurposing it into mats and rugs, dog leashes, and door wreaths.
Another company grabbing plastic water bottles to reuse for their durable bags, Each Bagito Original removes 25 pounds of plastic from the waste stream and can be used hundreds of times.
Flip Flops as Art Sculpture
Do you look down at your worn out flip flop and think “hmmmm, piece of art?” Kenyans who are trying to keep their beaches clean and make a living have and the result are these beautiful creations. All sculptures are carefully hand-carved by Ocean Sole Africa artisans, a small, women-run organization. These up-cycled sculptures create employment opportunities for low-income Kenyans while also raising awareness about ocean pollution.
Eco-friendly fashion leggings, active-wear, and sports bras from plastic bottles is this earth-conscious company’s focus while also incorporating packaging that is 100% recycled and recyclable!
Adidas is addressing their overall carbon footprint and shifting to use 100% recycled polyester in their products by 2024. This 4D running shoe features Parley Ocean Plastic made from recycled waste.
Three cheers for all innovative companies reusing plastic and keeping it out of landfills and oceans! Now it’s your turn… how will you change your habits to protect our earth? See you in the next blog!
Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer and worked for Julianna Rae in Graphics and Customer Service. She now writes for the blog at JuliannaRae.com